Corbet’s Rest is a simple but well run collection of holiday chalets in the Knuckles Range of central Sri Lanka, ideal for mountain hikes, birdwatching or simply doing nothing…
The drive from Kandy past Katugastota and Teldeniya is on a good road. We skirt Victoria Reservoir with Great Cormorants on its rocky islets and stop at the tiny, four-bedroomed Teldeniya Rest House for mid morning tea.
At Rangala, a narrow road full of potholes climbs up the mountain through patches of forest and tea plantations where women pluck leaves while supervisors watch from the road. A woman baths in a rocky stream and a bored little boy looks on. Woodsmoke rises from terraced paddy fields that dot the valleys. The air is cool and fresh and invigorating.
The road as it climbs gets worse. To negotiate large potholes, we have to get off the bus to ease the load. The scenery however, is breathtaking.
We reach Corbet’s Rest in the early afternoon (Corbet was a British surveyor who mapped the area in the second part of the 19th century). There is only a footpath to the ‘hotel’ but porters help with the luggage. The view from the terrace towards the Knuckles Range and Sphinx Rock (5273 feet) is stunning. Rana smiles happily and murmurs “I could easily spend a week here.”
Sarath – the man in charge, serves lunch. It is spicy and good. I look for a beer but there is none. “I will get some from Meemure tomorrow” Sarath says. Meemure is 11 miles away through the forest.
Our chalets are dotted about on the mountain side. A flight of steep, stone steps lead up from the footpath below. I nearly step on a Dathigomaraya (Black-headed Snake (Sibynophis subpunctatus) as I climb the steps. Each chalet has a veranda with chairs, a bedroom with three single beds and a bathroom with a shower. It is simple but clean and comfortable. The shower has good pressure and an electric heater but delivers only lukewarm water. A little yellow frog (endangered Pseudophilautus alto) in the bathroom jumps into the toilet and disappears down it. I watch the sunset from the veranda, drink arrack with the others and eat string hoppers for dinner.
I wake up next morning to the sound of howling monkeys. Gusts of wind almost lift the roof off the chalet. A pair of Greater Flamebacks on a dead tree keep hammering away and Black Bulbuls and Little Flowerpeckers dart about.
Sarath serves ‘milk-rice’ (Kiribath) and fish curry for breakfast. There are Hanging Parrots in the frangipani tree in front of the dinning room. Then, a grumpy, betel chewing bearded driver takes us in a rickety old minibus to the ancient village of Meemure for the day, 11 miles away on an impossible road. (See blog post Meemure).
We are back at Corbet’s Rest in time for a late lunch. A siesta is tempting but here is good birding in the surrounding forest and there are well laid out paths. A short outing rewards us with good views of Red-vented Bulbuls, Pompadour Green Pigeons, Black Eagles and Brown-headed Barbets.
That evening there are cans of well chilled Lion Lager and Pittu with chicken curry for dinner. We sit and chat and play games. “It is amazing we haven’t seen a single leech or a mosquito” somebody says.
On our way home next morning, we stop briefly at windy Corbet’s Gap which offers a view of a deep valley in the Knuckles Mountains from a hight of 3698 feet. It isn’t such a great view but the wind is strong enough to blow away the unwary.
The drive back to Colombo is uneventful. We stop briefly at the Mini World’s End, have lunch at Peradeniya Rest House, buy loads of Sri Lankan sweets at Jinadasa’s and have afternoon tea at the Avanhala in Ambepussa.
- “Avanhala” at Ambepussa is a good place for breakfast (~ Rs.600 pp. £4) on the Colombo-Kandy Road
- Peradeniya Rest House serves a good buffet lunch. (A 75cl bottle of local beer costs only Rs.250 and a bottle wine ~ Rs.2000 which is almost the same as the retail price)
- Corberts Rest Hotel, is only 60 km from Kandy but the journey by SUV or minibus takes about two and a half hours because of poor road conditions. The address of the hotel is: 150, Karambaketiya, Meemure, Sri Lanka. Tel: (+94) 77 320 9025, Manager Sarath: 08156 31 706, web: http://www.corbetsrest.com e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Click here for the Colombo – Corbet’s Gap map.
- The stay at Corbet’s Rest was arranged by Padmini Hussein of Flamingo Tours.